Friday, December 2, 2011

Chapter Three – Londinium

“Two of the six stones have been placed, is the third to be placed at Canterbury?”
Merlin gave Viviane a keen look. “That is one option but we have decided to add the power of Belinus into our spell. The next stone will be placed in Londinium.”
 “But that is not on a line.”
“It is close. The power of Belinus will make up for the location being slightly off.”
“We cannot afford to make any mistakes Merlin. We have one chance to do this properly. Arthur is looking for a wife and the Christians are pushing hard for one of their own.”
“That is not a bad thing, as long as she is tolerant.”
“Too few of them are these days.”
“And Grainne? Is she still your loyal priestess?”
“She loves her son.”
“Is Gwilym the father?”
“The son has the royal blood from both sides, we must watch this one.”
“He must be fostered out.” Viviane was adamant.
“Not yet, allow him some education first. Don’t force your own experience on the girl, Viviane.”
“I had hoped for a daughter that we could raise here to follow me. What does Grainne know of Gwilym?”
“Just that he is an educated laborer.”
“Educated indeed. He is starting to ask questions.”
“Is that such a bad thing, Viviane?”

On their travels to Londinium, Fred, Gwilym and his family spent the first night at a hermitage where they shared their food in exchange for lodging. They arrived a couple of hours before dark but the boys were tired and getting cranky so Gwilym thought to give them some early rest this first day. As they sat eating with the hermit, another horse pulled up outside. Their host went out to welcome his guest. Gwilym was pleasantly surprised to see Merlin walking in. Merlin smiled at Gwilym, patted his little boys on their heads and looked seriously at Bleddyn saying, “What have you been reading this year, son?”
Bleddyn entered into a long discourse about the exciting sagas he had been hearing and proudly showed Merlin his scrolls with his careful writing on them. Merlin praised the boy for his neat script. After eating, Fred put the dozing twins to bed and set up blankets for Gwilym, Bleddyn and himself next to them. Merlin was still questioning Bleddyn who was biting through his yawns to answer him. Finally, Fred led Bleddyn to bed where they both quickly dropped off to sleep. Gwilym talked with Merlin.
“I’ve come to inspect your tower, Gwilym. How did it turn out?”
“I completed it on budget. It seems the scope changes I made weren’t initially to Sir Kay’s liking but he found them useful for other purposes.”
“And what did you learn about projects this time around?”
Gwilym thought for a bit. “Having the requirements on the scope written down and agreed to by everyone was useful but people still do whatever they want to get to those ends. We need to agree how to get there before we start. Have you any ideas to improve this?”
“What is the problem with everyone going their own way?” asked Merlin.
“They sometimes do things twice or three times. Or redo a job someone else already did because it didn’t suit their purpose.”
“How do you ensure that everyone sees what everyone else plans to do?”
Gwilym spent some more time deep in thought. “It’s all about deciding HOW to do things. The charter taught us WHAT had to be done and WHERE it was being built and WHY we had to do it. The requirements and scope tell us more about WHAT to do. We need something that tells HOW to do it.”
“What tells you how to build a tower?”
“There are lots of elements to a tower. The foundations, the wooden supports, the stonework, the stairs, roof, walkways, etc. There are lots of different ways to build any of these. We need to agree in advance which way to build them. If I wrote down foundations, then broke that down to its elements, like stone, rock, gravel, quicklime, I could get agreement how to do it. Same with any of the other parts of the tower. But these people can mostly not read. I need to make it simple for them. They can recognize words like ‘stone’ but not in a paragraph.”

“Could you draw them a picture?” asked Merlin.
“Not a picture of the tower. That won’t show what has to lead up to what. But if I wrote ‘Foundation’, then showed arrows leading from that to the elements of foundation, like rock, quicklime, etc. then they could agree on that. I could do the same for the wooden supports, the barracks, everything. It’s as though I took all the work required and broke it down into the subcomponents. What do you call that, Merlin?”
“It sounds like you already named it, Gwilym.”
“What? Work subcomponents? Work Breakdown? It’s a picture or a chart that shows the structure of the project. Work subcomponents picture, Work Breakdown chart, Work Breakdown Structure? That one sounds good: Work Breakdown Structure. What do you think, Merlin?”
“Do you think the name suits? And will it do the job you need?”
“I do like the name. Work Breakdown Structure. As far as doing what I need, I’m not sure. We can try this next time but I think we might need more. After all, even with the wood, there are many ways to put it together to make the structure. We need to define the activities that lead us to the elements. We need to spell out HOW we are going to do every step. Something like, ‘Make metal template.’ ‘Cut ends of logs to fit template.’ ‘Place second log on top of first matching cuts.’ Not too much detail but enough so that we can see where duplicate work appears and which activities need to be done first.”
“Sounds sensible. Does it answer the question, HOW?”
“The two tools do. Work Breakdown Structure and Define Activities. I like it! Thanks again Merlin. I can’t wait to tell Fred of these new tools.”
“Will he add them to his song?”
“Did you hear his song, Merlin?”
“Fred’s words have reached my ears. Good night Gwilym.”
Gwilym went off to join his sons in the bed, thinking about the new tools and seeing how well he could use them in his next project.

Reaching Londinium in eight days, they passed through Aldersgate and pushed through the throngs in the narrow streets to the river. The air was a little better there and they followed the river downstream to the Walbrook. They followed this upstream, around the old Governor’s palace to the bridge that led past the old Temple of Mithras, now a Christian church. The houses pressed in close on them again as they passed the road leading from the forum to the bridge. Finally they reached the outskirts of town and followed the Philpot creek back to the banks of the river Thames. There they found their tower.
The tower was erected on top of an arch that spanned the creek allowing boats to access the wharves inside the walls of the city. The arch was connected to the walls but was clearly built before them. The stones were older, more crooked and the tower in the center of the arch was leaning to the east. The arch itself was impressive and looked solid. It spanned fully forty feet across and rose to a height of thirty feet above the water. Judging by the marks on the walls, Gwilym figured that there was still five feet of tides left to go.
He knew that he couldn’t take his boys up into that dangerous structure so he found himself a nearby inn that would accommodate his family and Fred for the next year. There was a young girl who could look after the twins during the days so he set up a schedule with her. After dinner, he put the boys in her care and Fred and Gwilym went to the building site to meet the team. As they approached the tower they were stopped by a watchman who told them to go upstream to cross the creek, it was too dangerous here.
“My name is Gwilym and this is Fred. We’ve been sent by Sir Kay to rebuild this tower. Can you tell me where to find my team?”
“Roight, sirrah. They’re all assembled and waitin’ fer ye. They’ll be drinkin’ at the Eastcheap tavern. Roight there, sirrah.” He pointed back the way they’d come.
Gwilym and Fred made their way back past their inn to a dingy old tavern. The fireplace was leaking smoke into the place and a dozen men stood around the bar or sat on the few benches. They all looked with curiosity at the newcomers as they entered. “A round of drinks for all the workers on the Byllynsgate tower! Courtesy of King Arthur and Sir Kay! Paid for by your new Project Manager and foreman, Gwilym and Fred!”
A loud cheer greeted this announcement and the men came around to meet the two. The barman poured the drinks and Gwilym raised his in a toast. “Here’s to the safe and successful completion of this tower!” Another cheer erupted and the men drank deeply. 
Lots of questions were asked of the two men, most of which they were able to answer from the charter they’d memorized. Some questions did not have ready answers but Gwilym promised that they would find all the answers tomorrow.
As the evening drew on and some men were making motions to retire for the evening Gwilym called for attention again. “Tomorrow morning we meet here two hours after dawn.” Another cheer. “We will do a little drinking and a lot of planning. We are going to understand this project before we even move one stone. And we’re going to waste no time, moving stones all over the place.” Yet another cheer from the men, which seemed to confirm to Gwilym that they were experienced in the kind of messed up projects that he was trying to avoid. “See you all then.”
At dawn the next morning, Gwilym and Fred inspected the tower and surrounding land to make broad plans, such as what they needed to move first, where they would store the materials and where they would place the arch supports. Then they went to the tavern, paid the man in advance for the food and drink that he would provide, and set up some wood planks on the benches to make a broad table. Then Gwilym placed a bag full of smooth wood shingles, each about 3-inches square, in the center of this table. Next to this, he placed a quill in a bottle of ink.
The men started drifting in and Gwilym invited them to break their fast. He asked that they drink more water than ale, because he wanted their minds sharp for this planning session. He asked each man to introduce himself and name his skill. Gwilym wrote this information on a scroll, checking off skills present with the skills he needed based on his previous estimates. When the team was all assembled he asked if there were any more sawyers. One carpenter said he could bring a friend the next day to add to the team. Gwilym smiled and asked him to please do so.
“Gentlemen,” began Gwilym, eliciting a laugh from these rough working men. “Allow me to read to you the royal charter for this project, written by Sir Kay and signed by the High King himself, King Arthur.” This quieted the men and brought some murmurs of approval from the men as he unrolled the impressive scroll. Gwilym read the charter out loud to the men repeating certain areas twice to emphasize points.
“So now that we know what we’re doing and where and why and who will do it, we are going to determine how we are going to do it.”
Gwilym reached for the bag of small shingles, drew a rough sketch of a finished tower on the first using the ink, and placed this in the middle of the top of the bench. “This is the goal of the project. A finished tower.” He looked at the men for evidence of their understanding and received nodding heads in response.
“Now to get to a finished tower, we need to do six things. First we need to support the old bridge.” He drew a supported arch and placed this on the left of the table, slightly below the level of the previous shingle. “Then we must remove the old tower.” He drew a bridge missing a tower and placed this about a foot to the right of the previous shingle. “Then we need to remove the bridge.” He drew an empty creek channel still containing arch supports and placed this shingle a foot to the right of the last one.
“Next we build a new supported arch, a completed tower and finally remove these supports.” He drew pictures on three more shingles and distributed these to the right of the previous three, revealing the structure shown below. 

“So this is the structure of how we are going to rebuild this tower.” The men surrounding Gwilym nodded in agreement and looked at each other with impressed looks on their faces. A few of the older men rolled their eyes as if to say, ‘Wow, he’s really spelling it out for us like we’re idiots.’
“If we are in agreement with the basic structure, let’s get into more detail.” Gwilym started making quick drawings or using simple, easily understood pictures to lay out the steps below the drawing of the arch missing the tower.
“While some of us clear out some space east of the tower, I will be numbering each of the stones on the existing tower so that we can put them back the way they were. Then we take the tower down in layers and place these layers next to each other in the order they came off, with the stones in the same position they held in the tower. We throw away any wood inside, it’s all rotten now.” He had laid out five shingles, all clearly understood, below the second shingle. “This is called Decomposition,” he said to his team.
“Meanwhile, one of us can be buying wood for the arch supports,” he drew a pile of lumber and placed this under the second shingle, “and they may as well be buying wood for the new arch at the same time.” He placed an identical shingle under the fourth shingle. This act shocked many of the men while the wisecracking veterans stopped clowning and watched carefully.
“Also, we’ll need to let the boat captains who use this stream know that they either need to find other docks or stay in the wharf all winter while we support the arch.” He placed a picture of a man approaching a boat under the first shingle. The men all laughed at this, picturing irate boat owners trying to reach the river. Gwilym looked around, saw the approving looks, and realized that he had the men now. He continued describing and laying out shingles in their appropriate places.
The table soon looked like this:

“Now, if I were a tyrant, I’d tell you to do exactly what this says and we’d get to work. But I’m no tyrant. I value your experience. What have I forgotten? What did I get wrong? What is done in the wrong order? What could be done better? I want all your input now so that we don’t have to redo our work later.”
The men were hesitant to begin with but, following the veterans, they all gave their input within their own specialties. The sawyer told Gwilym that they needed different wood for arch supports because they would be half submerged. The lead mason told Gwilym that they may be able to reuse the old foundations; saving lots of time and that he could assess that as they were reaching the end of the demolition. Others questioned placing the stones in layers as there was probably not enough room so they agreed to place two layers on top of each other.
In this fashion the men worked together, moving shingles, replacing them, adding others until they all seemed satisfied. Then Gwilym asked them this question: “See that tower on the top of this Work Breakdown Structure? If we do all the work below, will we end up with that tower, the way the charter wants it?”
The men thought for a while and one of the younger men said, hesitantly, “No. The charter says we need roads leading to both sides of it. I don’t see any roads in this…structure.”
Gwilym clapped the man on the shoulder and shouted, “Good work, Charlie! Where should we place the road shingles in this structure?”
Charlie was pleased by the confidence of the older man. He swelled up with pride, thought for a while and said, “We need to build the road foundations early on since we’ll need them to move the tower stones to the empty land. But they’ll get destroyed over the winter with all the moving around we’ll be doing. So we’ll need to add more rock as the winter progresses and we’ll have to finish it off last thing. He drew some crude road drawings on three shingles and placed them under the first, second and last shingle.
Once everyone seemed satisfied, Gwilym again looked at the men and asked the same question: “If we do all the work below, will we end up with that tower, the way the charter wants it?” The men thought carefully and then, one by one, looked at Gwilym and nodded.
“A round of ale, barkeep!” shouted Gwilym. “We have cause to celebrate. Now we know WHAT we’re doing, WHY and WHERE and finally HOW we will build this tower! We’ll eat our dinner and start work.”
After the men ate, Gwilym set the men to work. “You carpenters figure out how much wood we need for the arch supports and the tower and go order it. You masons inspect the existing stone and order enough to replace the broken ones. You three clear some space for placing the old tower and the rest of you, start clearing a road.”
Gwilym and Fred transcribed the Work Breakdown Structure onto a scroll. Then they went out, Fred supervising the men while Gwilym painted numbers and letters on the existing tower stones in preparation for the orderly demolition.

That evening Fred was in high spirits. He ate with Gwilym and his boys, excitedly going over the day’s events. “It’s as though we could see t’whole bridge and tower bein’ built right in front of us! And we could see where we’d be gettin’ in each other’s way and what had to happen before what else. And that Charlie, rememberin’ the road. We’d ha’ been sloggin’ through the mud before we’d a remembered it. I love this tool. I’m comin’ up wi’ a couple of verses for it in me Project Management Guide song.”
Gwilym smiled at his excited foreman. He too, was excited at how well it had worked but he was a little troubled by this morning’s events. “I think I may have been premature when I said we knew HOW to build the tower. We know the structure of the project but we need more definition in these activities.”
“Wha’ do tha mean, Gwilym?”
“Well, look at some of these tasks. Wood for arch supports, for instance. That doesn’t tell how to get there. The men need to do a lot of things to get that wood. Like: Measure arch; measure depth of water, make a drawing of the supports; add up the measurements; add some extra for scrap; order the wood; deliver the wood. Now, the men are doing that, but who’s to say that some of these more defined tasks won’t be repeated or skipped or unnecessary, just like activities in the Work Breakdown Structure. I think we need to define these activities better right now before we run into trouble.”
“Aye. I get what tha means, Gwilym. But does tha worry that t’men will think it stupid to have tha write down ever little step? Will they think tha are watchin’ over them like an owld mother hen?”
“Not if they are the ones giving me the steps. And not if I don’t go to ridiculous detail: ‘walk to bridge, look up, take out measuring stick, place one end at bottom of tower.’ I think they trust me now. I can go to the master of each activity and ask them to define their activities and then pull it all together myself for them to look at as a whole. And I can find the problems myself before I show it to the men so that they will see the value.”
“Sounds like a lot of work”
“Aye. I reckon it will be. Maybe you can continue doing my job while I work on this.”
“But Gwilym, tha knows I cannae write.”
“Yet you can draw like a champion, Fred. And you know your numbers. Look.” Gwilym pulled out a scroll that had all the letters carefully inscribed in beautiful calligraphy in alphabetical order. “Today I used the first five letters, A, B, C, D & E. There were about 20 stones per layer. What I did was start with the stone on each layer that faced directly west along the wall. On the first layer, I called this A1 and painted that on the outer face of that stone. Then I moved around the tower towards the river and called the next one A2, then the next A3, and so on. Make sense?”
“Aye,” said Fred dubiously
“Then I did the same with the next letter: B. B1 for the stone facing the wall, then B2 and so on. The next was the C layer, then the D layer, then the E layer. I got through some of the F layer.”
Fred started getting excited. “I remember t’symbols. So they are in order, t’same way t’numbers are in order, 1, 2, 3?”
Gwilym smiled. “Aye Fred. A, B, C, is the order of the letters, just like 1, 2, and 3.”
Fred looked carefully at the list of letters, then looked questioningly up at Gwilym. “But there are 26 of them, not 10. How do I count above 26 with letters?”
“The nice thing about letters, Fred, is that you can combine them to make whole words. Then words make sentences and you can write down whole conversations. We’ll get into that later. But for now, you need to learn the letters. So you are starting with this letter. It is called F. It’s pretty easy to write. Just a straight line up and down, with two straight lines coming off the right side: one at the top and one at the middle. Make the middle line a little shorter. And when you are done with that layer, call me to inspect your work and I’ll teach you the next letter.”
“I’ll do t’work, Gwilym and I’ll be right careful. But I know there are more than 26 layers of stone in that tower. What do I do when I get done with t’last one here, the one that looks kind of like a straightened number 2?”
“We can treat the letters like numbers then. What do you do with numbers after you use 9?”
“Tha takes 1 and starts again after that wi’ zero, then 1, then 2, making 10, 11 and 12. But what be t’letter for zero?”
“We don’t have a letter like that so we’ll name the 27th row: AA, then the 28th row: AB and so on. Can you do that Fred?”
“Which one is A and which one B again?” Fred inquired.
“These first two are.” And Gwilym went through the letters a few times with Fred.

The next morning, before the team had assembled, Gwilym showed Fred how to start numbering the stones and Fred quickly understood. He was busily painting on the stones when the rest of the team arrived. They looked at Fred with a new respect, then drifted off to do their work. Gwilym moved around them throughout the day, getting definition on all the activities and inscribing them all in his scrolls. He checked in on Fred after every level and praised his careful work. He noticed that as Fred painted, he repeated the name of the letter like a mantra, “F, F, F,” Gwilym smiled to himself and continued gathering information from his men.
They ate dinner together and Gwilym explained what he was doing with the scrolls. “I’m getting detail on all of the activities we worked out yesterday so that I can make sure we’re not running into each other, or having to do anything twice. When I’m done, we’ll go over it and look for the problems.”
Gwilym was as good as his word. He had spent the day inscribing all the defined activities into his scroll and, after the boys were asleep, compared each set of activities to work out the problems. The next morning, when the men assembled, he brought them back into the tavern for an hour and went over each set with them. He read the activities out loud, showed where he had made the corrections, and got their input into the changes. The men were at first shocked when Gwilym crossed out and rewrote over the existing scroll. They were accustomed to scrolls being sacred texts, carefully handled by priests. But they soon got used to it and felt respected for their opinions. By dinner they were all satisfied that the work was well defined and they ate and went off to do their jobs. One carpenter said to a mason, “Finally you won’t be asking me to do my work again after I’ve finished.” They both laughed and went to their places.
Fred continued with his painting while Gwilym rewrote the scratched up scrolls into a large book that he had purchased for this job. On the first page he wrote the name of the project in fancy calligraphy. The second page was a transcription of the charter. The third page was a list of the project stakeholders. The next page showed the Work Breakdown Structure while the following pages broke each major deliverable down into the defined activities that the men had just figured out. He finished up just as the men were getting ready to leave for the day.
Gwilym assembled the men and showed them the book. They were suitably awed. “It’s loik our own Boible for this tower,” one said.

Gwilym and his family settled into a comfortable routine in town. He and Bleddyn woke to the church bells and, leaving the younger boys sleeping, washed their faces and hands and walked a short distance to attend morning Mass. On the way there and back, father and son discussed the morning’s readings and Gwilym put them in context within the whole Bible. Bleddyn’s Latin was still growing and he often had to rely on his father’s translation to understand some of the prayers. Gwilym, as ever, used this as another way to improve his son’s learning. Bleddyn knew by heart all the words intoned by the priest and his expected responses, as he had done since the age of five.
On returning, Gwilym prepared their simple breakfast while Bleddyn woke his brothers and took them to empty their bladders. Breakfast was always the same except for Sundays. Gwilym and Bleddyn ate a boiled egg, some carrots, a bowl with yoghurt and a cup of water. The twins had the same except Gwilym had crushed the carrots in a mortar and pestle and cut up the egg. The boys also drank milk instead of water. On Sundays their breakfast was hotcakes with honey.
After breakfast, Bleddyn would set to work on the reading his father had assigned him. Their library of books and scrolls was growing rapidly in Londinium. Bleddyn had found some people who were only too happy to swap scrolls with Gwilym and they could each copy the others’ onto a new scroll. Gwilym’s scrolls were mostly from his travels to the Holy Land and were rare in these parts. In exchange, Gwilym received scrolls of epic battles, love tales, some bad poetry and some interesting stories. Bleddyn’s work was to read these scrolls and transcribe them onto the new books that his father provided. 
A woman who lived nearby with her small brood of children looked after Jac and Llawen during the day. Gwilym would usually gather his children up for dinner and ask them what they had learned so far. Then he would ask them in turn his usual question: “Did you ask any great questions today?” Dinner was bread and cheese and more carrots. The afternoon went on like the morning for the younger ones but Bleddyn would spend it with his father, learning the business and doing some physical labor. “Healthy body, healthy mind, son,” was Gwilym’s mantra if Bleddyn complained about being tired.
After work, Gwilym would gather his boys and troop outside the city walls to wash in the river. Depending on the tides they would go to the east or west side of town to avoid washing in the filth of the city. They received a lot of jeering for this fastidiousness and Bleddyn, starting to feel self-conscious amongst boys of his age, asked to be freed from this chore. “We’re not in the Holy Land, Da. Why do we need to wash every day?”
“Have you smelled these townsfolk who wash only once a year, lad? Have you seen the lice in their hair and the dirt and shit caked on their skin? It’s not healthy and I won’t have you be one of them.”
The younger boys were washed in the shallows and seemed to enjoy the warm water. But as the days grew colder they complained more until Gwilym started washing them in the yard of their lodgings with some warm water.
They would end their evening over a meal of some kind of stew with bread provided by their landlord. Gwilym always asked his boys the same two questions. “What was the worst part of your day? What was the best part of your day?” The answers to these questions always elicited great conversation and the family talked until late in the evening. Then Gwilym would read a story to the boys from one of his many books and scrolls until they fell asleep. He would stay awake another few hours, catching up on his project records and planning what tasks needed to be worked on tomorrow. Finally he would read for an hour for his own pleasure before falling asleep.
Often Fred would come over to visit and Bleddyn would sit with him working on his writing after dinner. Gwilym would look up from his own scrolls with amusement as Bleddyn taught his diligent foreman. Fred had learned the writing of the letters while painting the stones of the tower and arch and was showing curiosity in how these were used. At first he cared only which letter started each word. He marveled that all the words he had been using his whole life were started by one of these 26 letters. “But why does the C sometimes make a sound like a K and sometimes like an S?” was one of his complaints. Being a man of numbers, it was difficult for Fred to deal with the inconsistencies of the British tongue. But Fred showed a remarkable memory and was soon reciting correctly which letter started each word.

One day, on the way to church, Bleddyn asked his father, “When can Jac and Llawen come with us, Da?
“When they’re three and can sit still for an hour.”
“So they don’t embarrass you?”
Gwilym looked deeply into his son’s eyes. “Is that why you thought I didn’t let you come until you were three?”
“It’s because I want you to understand what is going on and not be bored. There are a lot of interesting stories told there and the most important stories are about Christ. What He did, where He was born, where He went, what He said, what happened to Him and why He died. When you’re a little older we can start talking about some of the inconsistencies in the stories. It’s really interesting. That’s what my father and I used to talk about. That’s why we went to the Holy Land.” He stopped suddenly and turned his head away.
Bleddyn looked up inquiringly at his father. “I never knew you went to the Holy Land with your father. I thought you went alone. Those stories you told through the years. They only had you in them.”
“I went there with my father. But he died there. And I came back alone.”
“What happened to him, Da?”
“When you’re older I’ll tell you. It’s complicated and you need to know more about the Bible first. Study for another three years and I’ll tell you the story.”

The tower was progressing well and the men were getting along. They all knew more about each other’s jobs because they had seen what was required while constructing the Work Breakdown Structure. They tried to keep out of each other’s way as much as possible. As usual, things arose that were unexpected and needed to be taken care of. One of the ships had to get past the arch supports to the river and Gwilym had his crew lift it and carry it around and over the bridge to accomplish this. More stones than expected needed to be replaced, which cost more money, though it made the road that they were building with the scraps a little better.

Fred and Gwilym were working with the men to remove the stones of the tower in numerical order and had set up a chain gang to transport them to their places. As Fred removed one particular stone, a small rockslide emerged from the space behind and a highly decorated urn rolled out. Before Fred or Gwilym could catch it, it fell onto the arch. It didn’t break, and the men all breathed a sigh of relief as the beautiful picture of a swift deer was revealed. But then it fell onto its side and started rolling toward the edge of the arch to fall into the river. George made a dive at it but couldn’t reach it in time. Fred ran down the tower but even he knew he wouldn’t make it in time. The men were all cringing at this loss, most knew that this urn contained the ashes of Belinus. Just before it fell off the side, a rock hit it and stopped its motion.  The rock cracked the picture of the deer. Fred finally grabbed the urn before it rolled off the other way. The men looked back to where the rock came from and saw Gwilym lowering his arm from the throw.

Looking inside this urn they found ashes of a long-ago cremated body. “The ashes of your forefather, Belinus,” said Gwilym.

One afternoon, Fred asked Gwilym to come up to the top of the arch to see something interesting. The man had removed all but the last layer of tower stones that, in turn, sat on the top of the arch. They were able to see now that the cornerstone of the tower was hollow and contained an earthenware jar. Gwilym looked inquiringly at the men and asked, “What is it?”
Fred replied for the men, “In owlden days, it were t’custom to put important documents about t’buildin’ in t’cornerstone. They mun be inside t’jar.”
“Just like it says in ‘Gilgamesh’!” remarked Gwilym and removed the jar from the stone.
While the men continued with their stone-by-stone demolition, Gwilym carefully carried the earthenware jar into his lodgings and examined it. The stopper was also made of earthenware and it looked as though it had been fired at the same time as the jar. Gwilym wondered if it would be possible to open the jar without breaking it. But the jar couldn’t all have been made at the same time or it would have to be empty.
Gwilym tapped the sides of the lid and tried to gently lift it off. It moved slightly, then stopped. He worked the other side a little up, then proceeded around the lid, moving it a millimeter at a time. After 15 minutes of careful work, he was able to prise the lid off the jar, revealing a layer of wax that had sealed it. He removed this and revealed an ancient scroll.
Gwilym washed and dried his hands before he reached in and withdrew the scroll. He opened it and eagerly scanned the document. It was written in a much older form of British. The words were separated from each other by tiny dots, which meant that the scroll must have been written many hundreds of years ago.
He started at the beginning and worked his way painstakingly through the scroll. While he could not work out every word, he understood that this scroll discussed the life and death of Brute, the founder and namesake of Britain, grandson of Aeneas who had fled Troy. According to the scroll, Brute had founded this city and called it New Troy and was the first British king.
Gwilym spent most of his evenings over the next four weeks carefully transcribing the scroll into a blank book. He smiled to himself at the story, wondering how much was true and how much was the simple British longing for a link to the greatness of Troy. Either way, the story was good and he would enjoy sharing it with his sons.

Every Monday this winter, Gwilym had noticed that his men were surlier than usual. They came to work with downcast faces, argued more, and occasionally fought. They brought their own food rather than eating in the tavern and their clothing was shabbier than before. At first Gwilym attributed this to Monday and winter blues and he organized a Mid-Winter feast to get them through this. The men were happy at this event, but came back on the following Monday madder than ever.
Later that same day he heard an almighty uproar and climbed to the top of the arch to see what was happening. The men were all gathered on the bridge, yelling abuse at a boat that was passing by. Gwilym was dumbfounded. ‘Had the boat done something to the bridge?’ It was almost in the middle of the river and the wake pattern showed that it had been sailing along the middle the whole time. ‘Was there someone on the boat who offended his men? Yes, they appeared to be yelling abuse at one man in the middle, someone they called Ranta.’ The man turned to Gwilym’s crew and made a gesture that said, ‘What can I do?’ and turned his face from the men back toward the boat’s direction. As he did so he met Gwilym’s eye and the recognition was immediate and mutual. Tarrant!
“Time to take a break and join me in the tavern, men,” Gwilym said.
When everyone had assembled Gwilym asked, “What was that all about?”
When no-one replied he said, “Look fellows, whatever is going on is affecting your work. You’re getting lazy, making mistakes, getting mad at each other. George, you hit Charlie so hard he missed work for a week. Tell me what’s going on. I can probably help.”
Finally, George spoke up, looking ashamed. “We take our wages every Saturday to the Grey Goose tavern and enjoy a little drinkin’ and some doice. Sometimes oy would win a little, sometimes others but it were pretty even. A few months ago, this Ranta shows up and ’e’s got a lot of money and ’e loses some so we koinda like ’im. Then ’e gambles some more and loses even more. Then ’e risks a lot on one throw of the doice and ’e wins it. Well, fair enough we say, but then ’e does it again the next week, and the next until ’e’s taking all our wages every week. Every toime we think we’re going to get it back, ’e gets a lucky throw roight when ’e needs one.”
“Will he be there on Saturday?” Gwilym asked. 
“Yeah. ’E don’t moind the abuse. ’E keeps sayin’ that lady luck will get back at ’im one day.”
“Would you like to get all your money back on Saturday?”
 “Yeah!” was the general assent of the team.
“Then borrow some from your friends and bring everything you have. You gamble in the back room, right?”
“Fred and I will be in the corner of the tavern staying in the shadows. When you are about to place the big bet that Ranta always wins, come out and get me and we’ll settle this.”
The men went back to work cheerfully and happily collected their wages on Saturday with a wink and a ‘See you at the Grey Goose.’
Gwilym collected Fred and they went into the tavern and settled in the dark corner. They drank but little and Gwilym laid out his plan. “Whoever comes to get you, go with them around to the back door and don’t let Tarrant out. I’ll keep him from leaving the front way. I’m sure that Sir Kay will be happy to talk with Tarrant again. But first, I want to ask him about Tirion’s daughter, Lowri. I’m pretty sure he had something to do with her disappearance. I gave that brooch we found in Brycgstow to Tirion and she recognized it as Lowri’s. Tarrant matches the description of the man who sold it to the trader. And he was just before us on the way to Caerleon. He said that I’d regret him being fired and if he was the one who stopped Lowri from getting to Avalon, he killed my Kaitlyn. And I’m afraid he killed Lowri also.”
The two men drank slowly to keep their wits about them. In addition to the ale, Gwilym had asked for a pitcher of water that he was not drinking. Fred asked about it but Gwilym just told him to be patient, all would become clear.
Finally George came out of the back room and whispered to them that they were all placing their bets for one big throw to win back all their money. Fred took George out the back and Gwilym slipped into the room. All the men were standing around one side of the room, looking down at the floor to where all the wagers were laid and the dice were to be thrown. Tarrant didn’t look up because he was focused on shaking the dice, but a couple of other men that Gwilym didn’t recognize watched him enter. They didn’t seem to have a bet on this roll.
Gwilym forced his way through his men and reached the edge of the throwing pit just as the dice were rolled. They bounced off the wall and spun a little, then turned up as a 6 and a 5. All the men groaned and Tarrant cheered to himself, “Lucky in dice, unlucky in love!” and moved to pick up the dice. As he reached down, Gwilym stepped on his hand.
“Let’s have a look at these lucky dice shall we?”
Tarrant’s face grew pale as he looked at Gwilym. He was bent over, his hand pinned to the ground, totally at the man’s mercy. “Let me go! It was a fair roll!”
“Indeed? So why not pick up your winnings first? Or are the dice more valuable than the money?”
Suddenly Gwilym felt himself being pulled over backwards. He didn’t want to let go of Tarrant so he didn’t shift his weight and, as a result, he fell over towards the dice. Tarrant made a grab for them but Gwilym snatched them up first. Tarrant pulled his hand out from under Gwilym’s foot and ran for the back door. “Stop him!” shouted Gwilym.
There was a large tumult as men were being pushed around. The back door slammed open; there was an unearthly shriek and then the sounds of running feet. Gwilym got up and ran outside. He saw Fred kneeling over George who was holding the hilt of a dagger that was sunk deep into his chest. “Hold those two!” yelled Gwilym at his men, pointing to the two strangers who had knocked him over helping Tarrant escape and were now trying to flee through the front door of the room.
“George! Stay calm man, we’ll get you help.” Gwilym lifted the man into the light of the room, seeing then that it was hopeless. Blood poured out of the wound and George’s face was turning grey from the lack of it. “How…how…was he cheating?” were his final words. Gwilym pulled out the dagger, a nasty looking one with a three pointed blade, designed to open a wound and keep it open.
Meanwhile, the tavern-keeper was arguing with Gwilym’s men. “It’s not your money. Ranta won it in my sight. You can’t come in here with your goons and scare him away and keep the money. I saw the dice throw and Ranta wins.”
“Hold those two until later, boys,” Gwilym said to his men who were holding the two strangers. Then he approached the tavern-keeper and introduced himself. “Well Nick, I see you run a fair gambling establishment that can’t be taken over by force. That’s commendable. Do you allow cheating?”
“Never!” protested Nick.
“Then let’s have a look at these dice that Tarrant, I mean Ranta, was so lucky with. Would you give them a few rolls please?”
Nick obliged him and the murmurs grew to roars of disbelief as Nick rolled a series made up entirely of 11s and 12s. He turned the dice over in his hands to ascertain that there were other numbers on the faces and looked at Gwilym in astonishment. “How did he do it?”
Gwilym brought the dice over to the pitcher of water he had taken from the other room. “Watch carefully as I first drop a normal die in here.” Nick gave him one and they took turns seeing how, when dropped into the water, the die spun and landed at the bottom on one face or another, seemingly at random. Then Gwilym dropped in one of Tarrant’s dice and the watchers grew immediately agitated. The die did not spin as it fell, it fell facing up at the six or the five. As more and more of the men saw what was happening the outcry grew louder. “It’s weighted to fall that way!” shouted the men at Nick.
“Would it be fair to assume that Tarrant had been cheating these men for while?”
“If he was using these dice, yes,” admitted the tavern-keeper.
“Did Tarrant always throw the dice that won that final time?”
“Yes!” insisted the men. “’E said they were ’is lucky doice.”
“Then I suggest that these men won today’s roll and that Tarrant lost, wouldn’t you agree, Nick?”
“Fair enough, men. Have your winnings!” The men cheered and collected their money. “And how about a couple of rounds on the house to forget all this?” Another cheer.
“We’re not done here,” insisted Gwilym. He turned to the two strangers who were being held fast by four of Gwilym’s men. “Who are you and why did you help that man escape?”
The men were scared. “We never met ’im until yesterday. ’E paid us to be ’is bodyguard for tonoight. ’E said that ’e was afraid someone would try to cheat ’im tonoight. ’E never even told us ’is name.”
Gwilym looked closely at the men and declared, “A man is dead tonight who would be alive if you had not taken this job.”
“If we ’adn’t, someone else would ’ave,” they pleaded.
“True enough. And it would have been them going to the gallows instead of you. Take them to the bailiff,” he ordered his men. “I’ll talk to George’s wife. Where are his winnings?” Charlie gave them to him.

Tarrant disappeared that night and hadn’t been seen in Londinium again, even with the bailiff and his men looking for him. Gwilym had even posted a generous reward, but to no avail. The two accomplices were hung by the bailiff.
The men were all somber at George’s funeral. After the funeral the men got together and talked privately, then Charlie came forward and told Gwilym, “We’ve decided to split George’s work between us so you don’t have to hire another man. Give his wages to wife as usual.”
Gwilym nodded and was at a loss for words. Mixed emotions flooded through him. Sorrow at seeing the devastated wife and children, anger at losing Tarrant, awe at his men’s generosity, and pride at their jelling as a team.

Now that the men were no longer grumbling about their gambling losses, Gwilym expected lifted spirits. While this was true the first few days, pretty soon fights between the team-members seemed to get even worse, and many had to be broken up by Gwilym. They were arguing about the different tasks they were supposed to be doing. Gwilym surmised that removing Tarrant as a common enemy had surfaced these inter-team rivalries. He called a team meeting.
“Gentlemen! We are all working together to build a grand structure. We know what we have to do and how we are to do it. What are we arguing about?”
“’E’s supposed to ’ook the stones to the foundation afore Oi can build on ’em but ’e won’t do it!” accused one of the men, pointing at another.
“Oo said that were moi job?” retorted the one accused.
“You’re the lead mason, of course it’s your job!” replied the first.
More men started pointing fingers at others and a general uproar ensued. Gwilym listened carefully until the shouting drowned out the words and then he stood. He said nothing, but those looking at him quieted down and those not, noticing that others had quieted, looked around and shut up at seeing Gwilym. Finally only one pair of men was left arguing.
“You keep throwin’ your stone scraps off to the side instead of bringin’ them to me for moi road!”
“Well oi’m not yer bloody servant! Get the scraps yerself!” At that the two men noticed Gwilym looking at them and felt the eyes of the rest of the men. They both blushed and quieted down.
Gwilym thought for a moment and then spoke. “Do we agree that this book shows the way the tower should be built?” Reluctant nods of heads affirmed this.
“It tells us WHY, WHERE, HOW we are building it and WHAT we are building, right?” More heads nodded.
“But what it doesn’t tell us is WHO does what, right?”
This question was greeted with enthusiastic agreement; all the men shouting over each other how this question of WHO did WHAT was affecting their work.
“Alright then, nobody does any more work today until we figure it out.”
Gwilym placed the project book in the center of the table and opened it to the defined tasks and pointed to the first one. “This task is done. See how I’ve placed a check mark next to it?” The men nodded.
“So are all these tasks.” He showed a series of tasks, all accompanied by check marks. “Here is the next task that must be done. One of you must do it. It says, ‘Level foundation.’ Who, in this room, will take responsibility for that task?”
No one said a word. The men had been used to not volunteering for work since that only meant more work for them at the same pay.
“I need two things for every task: some materials and somebody to do something with those materials. Both are resources. What I’m trying to do now is estimate resources needed to complete each task. And for that I need you to step up and take responsibility that you will be that resource.”
Gwilym looked hard at Joseph. “Isn’t that your job, Joseph?”
“Aye, it be moi job a’roit. But ain’t it your ’sponsibility?”
“The entire project is my responsibility. But I cannot be responsible for all of these tasks. I’m not a master foundation builder like you, Joseph. Only you know when it is level and strong. You’re the one who told us we had to add piles into the river and add more rock to make it strong. So I ask again, who is responsible for leveling the foundation?”
“That be me,” Joseph admitted.
“Then I will write your name next to that task. Is that alright?”
“Good. The next task says: ‘Create notch templates.’ That’s my responsibility so I’ll place my name next to that task.” Gwilym signed his name.
“Now then, the next task says: ‘Cut first logs to length.’ Who is responsible for that?” Gwilym looked around and noticed something interesting. The men who had appeared scared at volunteering for work when he asked of the first task were looking around at each other, focusing on Peter, the lead carpenter, placing peer pressure on him to volunteer.
Peter felt their looks and raised his hand. “That’s moi task.”
“How about, ‘Cut notches in first layer of logs’?”
“Oi’ll give that task to moi apprentice, Fergus,” replied Peter.
Gwilym was about to write Fergus’ name on the plan when he had an idea. He liked the fact that men were volunteering for tasks. He felt that this would give him pressure when it came time to do the task. They had made a commitment in front of their peers to do something. If they were just told in front of others that they were responsible, they could always say that they hadn’t wanted the responsibility. But now, by volunteering, they were telling everyone that they would do it.
Gwilym turned to Fergus, “Do you agree to take on this task?”
Fergus looked to Peter, then back at Gwilym. “Oi’ll take responsibility, sirrah.”
The men laughed but shut up when they saw that Gwilym was taking this seriously. He wrote Fergus next to this task and moved to the one after it. The team went through each task, one at a time until each one had a person’s name next to it.
There were a few hitches. Some tasks had to be better defined. Gwilym readily did this, realizing that they would have had problems with these tasks when they got to that point anyway; better to plan it properly today. Some tasks were still duplicated and they were removed.
There was a task where two men wanted responsibility. ‘Place cornerstone of tower on arch.’ Joseph, the master arch builder wanted to be certain this was placed in the correct location but so did William, the tower man. In this case, Gwilym broke the task into two tasks and each man took responsibility for one of them. One task read, ‘Decide location of center of tower’ and Joseph took this task gladly. The other task read, ‘Place cornerstone based on arch center’ and William happily took this task.
There was a task nobody wanted that anyone could do. ‘Book room for celebration’ Gwilym watched all the men looking around at each other, no-one willing to take on this small, extra task. He looked at the plan and noticed that one of the laborers had not taken responsibility for any tasks; the rest had taken at least one. “Hal, could you take this one on?” he asked. Hal looked embarrassed and agreed readily.
The last hiccough in this operation was one task that nobody wanted. All refused to meet Gwilym’s eye as he read the task and looked at his men. He repeated the task and asked his men what the problem was.
“‘Place arch supports’ is a task that is always a problem,” he was told. “Men who do that never try it again. There are too many problems with it. You always get the arch builders complaining that the supports are too high or too low or not strong enough. The last three men I know who did that, two I never heard from them again and the third is Barry here, he talks to himself and is only good for simple laboring jobs.”
This last statement elicited a roar of laughter at which the confused Barry smiled. The men then calmed down and looked to Gwilym for guidance. “This reminds me of people not wanting to take charge of a tough project. So let’s treat it like a small project. What is the first part of this task?”
Gwilym took a blank sheet of parchment and wrote on the top, ‘Build arch support’. The men offered suggestions on tasks below this: ‘Measure depth of water’, ‘Hammer pilings into river’, ‘Create support foundation’, ‘Draw out support structure’, ‘Get agreement on support structure’, Measure wood’, ‘Place supports’, ‘Attach cross braces’, and so on. When they had offered up all the sub-tasks, Gwilym asked for a responsible person for each sub-task. The men stalled again on ‘Get agreement on support structure’ so Gwilym offered to break this sub-task down even further. But finally Joseph agreed to take on this sub-task and the team continued on planning the project.
It took the rest of the day but Gwilym, looking around at the expressions of his men, was convinced that this exercise was worth it. The tasks were better defined; the men had a clear idea of what their responsibility was on this project. They also understood what the other men were tasked with and developed a respect for each other’s workload.
Gwilym spent the next day rewriting the project plan neatly to include these new tasks and the person responsible for each. He used his finest calligraphy to place the names of the responsible men next to the tasks with illuminated capital letters. Then he showed these to the men who were proud to see their names so honored. Because of the different colored inks and the clear, illuminated capital letters, each man could clearly see the tasks for which they had taken responsibility.
This was the document Gwilym walked around with for the rest of the project, happily checking off each task as it was completed. He then went to the next man and reminded him of the task he had volunteered for and asked him to start working on it.

The tower seemed as though it would be finished quite a bit early, because of this excellent team that had been forged through careful planning and serendipitous events. But the various problems that always plague a project reared their ugly heads. One was that a boat owner insisted on removing his boat from the stream to the river after the arch supports were in his way. Gwilym argued with the captain but to no avail. The captain insisted that he must deliver his cargo that week and could not wait until the arch supports were removed. He was not one of the boat-owners originally told about the bridge plans so he escalated his argument to the mayor of the town who forced Gwilym to help the man. Gwilym was forced to divert his men for two days to haul the boat out of the stream and over the arch, lowering it back down to the river on the other side.
As a result of these problems, Gwilym was struggling to place the capstone the day before Beltane. The runes on this stone seemed to match those on the previous two, even though this stone was original to the tower. He didn’t have the river jade to place under it and was about to use some granite when Merlin entered the jobsite with Grainne in tow. He bowed to them both, shook Merlin’s hand and kissed Grainne’s.
Merlin addressed him. “Another wonderful job, Gwilym and finished right on time. Almost as though the Goddess decreed that you place the final stones on Beltane.”
“Yes,” agreed Gwilym. “It’s quite the coincidence. Do you have any more of that river jade, Merlin? It worked well on the last two towers and I was hoping for some more on this one.”
Merlin nodded to a box behind him in the cart.
“Where did you get them, Merlin? They are quite fine and smooth and so strong. They can’t have been cheap.”
“Have you ever seen me use money, Gwilym?” was Merlin’s reply and this stopped Gwilym while he recollected all his memories of Merlin. No. He’d never seen the man even appear to hold money. ‘Strange indeed,’ he thought.
“I’d like to arrange a private audience with the lady Grainne when you can spare her, sir.”
Merlin replied, “When she is through with her duties, I’m sure she’ll find you.”
“No, sir,” Gwilym said. I’d like to speak with her sometime today, not tonight. And I’d like to talk with her over a meal, rather than on the job-site if possible.” He blushed, remembering his previous two encounters and wondering how much about them was known to Merlin.
“The lady speaks for herself, Gwilym” said Merlin.
Gwilym turned to meet Grainne’s frank look and asked her, “Could we have dinner in the tavern together? I have some questions for you.”
Grainne paused for a moment, considering, then said, “Yes. I’ll meet you there at Midday.”
Gwilym took the river jade and set about placing them under his capstone. The men were cleaning up the job-site for tomorrow’s ceremony with Sir Kay and were almost finished. He would send them home after dinner he decided. Let them celebrate as a team for a while.

Gwilym washed up and entered the tavern, finding Grainne already seated at a table. All the men in the tavern were staring at her hungrily. He sat down and ordered food to be brought. Bread, cheese and mushrooms plus some carrots and milk. They both ate heartily.
“Should I expect you at the top of the tower again tonight?” he asked.
“Of course you should, Gwilym. I want you as my Beltane lover again,” she replied.
“This is getting to be quite a pattern. Would you tell me what it’s all about. These capstones have some power and meaning and we seem to be consecrating them each Beltane. Add to that the river-jade that must separate them from the rest of the tower. There is certainly some old magic being done here.”
“All will be explained in good time, Gwilym. Are you not enjoying yourself?”
“I’ll not deny that I am enjoying myself. You felt my enjoyment as well as I. But there are consequences of these acts. Was it my child you were suckling last year?”
Grainne looked down and replied, “The Goddess gives children to women as is her will.”
“And yet the Goddess needs a man to help the woman get with child. So I repeat: Am I the father of this child you suckle?”
She looked up at this and responded, “Yes. He is being raised in Avalon, as a boy of the royal blood should be. When he is old enough he will be fostered out.”
“Foster him with his father,” Gwilym said.
“Do you still attend daily Mass?” she asked, meeting his eye.
“I do, as does my oldest son and my others will as they reach age.”
“Why Gwilym? You are an educated man; you know some of the mysteries we teach at Avalon, yet you follow these prattling priests and their ‘One God.’ Why?”
“I do my own research and I learn a lot by attending the services. And I teach my sons the way my father taught me.”
“Then you are not a true believer? You don’t worship this Christ as the only God?”
“I hold neither the Christian’s prejudice against your religion nor the Druid’s prejudice against Christianity. There is an older truth that I am trying to discover and there is a link between the two. I struggle to find this link. I also listen to the Druids when I can and attend ceremonies in the sacred groves. At least the Christians write down their beliefs and stories where they can be examined. Why don’t the Druids?”
“The beliefs of the Druids cannot be trusted to ink on paper. It must be learned from a master and accompanied by years of training. It is not something that can be picked up and misused by any fool who knows his letters.”
“Long ago the Druids welcomed the first priests into Avalon and helped them build the church at Glastonbury. I’d like to see those years return.”
Grainne’s eyes flashed. “Avalon used to sway with our Druids, performing a chant that had been sung continuously for over 400 years. And then the priests drowned it out with the clanging of their bells. You want those years returned?”
“I want the first years returned, when the Christian priests chanted along with your Druids. Do you even know what that chant was about? It sang of a time of peace and unity and a warning against an enemy to come.”
“And the enemy was within their walls.” Grainne was angry now. “The enemy was the treacherous priests who drowned out their chants.”
“No Grainne,” insisted Gwilym, “That enemy is yet to come. I have been to the Holy Land. It will come from there. The prophecies are clear about that. It will come from the east and will lay claim to Jerusalem and then spread out from there. It will come one day, even to here. And it will destroy us all, Druid and Christian. It will be a jealous religion and tolerate nothing.”
“You’re talking of what has already happened. Christianity spread from Jerusalem and is now spreading intolerance. These Christians cut down the sacred groves. They ban the Beltane fires. Already some of the kings are converted and deny the people their worship. Arthur is sworn to Avalon but he may be the last. The tide is drowning us all.” Grainne was wiping away angry tears that sprang unwanted from the corners of her eyes.
“I believe you’re wrong. That’s why I’m helping you. I know you’re using me as part of a spell. I’m happy to help. You don’t need to use your priestess powers on the tower. I’d much rather come together as Beltane man and maiden. And I’d like to talk afterwards. Let yourself go with me, Grainne. You might even enjoy it.”
Grainne blushed at this, knowing that she had enjoyed the previous love-making sessions but had withheld her whole self from him intentionally, using her powers to keep him under her control and to force him to sleep while she slipped off. She remembered fondling him lovingly while he slept, cursing the requirements placed on her by the Lady of the Lake who ordered her to perform this duty.
“Tell me about my son, Grainne.”
Grainne’s face lit up for the first time since he’d met her. “He’s a grand boy, big and red-headed, with a face as full of freckles as the night is with stars. I’ve named him Madoc, and he’s living up to his name. He takes after you, running all around the island and getting into scrapes, and he’s really smart. He always shares his toys and looks after younger children.”
“Foster him with me when you are finished with his training.”
Grainne looked closely at Gwilym and seemed to momentarily drift off into a trance. Her lips pursed as she struggled for words. Then she focused her eyes and looked sharply at him. “Of course. Yes, I’ll give him to his father for fostering.”
Gwilym got up to go. “I’ll see you tonight then? Shall I bring some cloaks to make it more comfortable?”
“No Gwilym! There must be nothing between us and the stone. That’s very important.”
“It’s uncomfortable. But if that is the way the spell works, who am I to argue?” He leaned over to her as he stood. “But how about if we try it once in a bed some other time. It can be quite nice.”
Grainne smiled broadly, winked at him and said, “Until tonight then, Gwilym.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a harp. As Gwilym walked out the tavern door, she started up a song. Her voice was clear and sharp. She hit every note perfectly. Gwilym paused for a few minutes before returning to his job and heard a few verses of the song. Some of the men joined in and the rest cackled at the bawdier lines.

His hands were long, his face was fair
The girls would vie to stroke his hair
But he would smile and walk from there
The Student of the Master

He caught our lovely lady's eye
And caused her on Beltane to try
To lead him o’er the cattle sty
The Student of the Master

She showed him mother, maid and crone
To try and win him for her own
He left her by the lake alone
The Student of the Master

While he unmeaning broke our hearts
He studied all our healing arts
And fixed the people's broken parts
The Student of the Master

He cut the petals, peeled the bark
And plucked the flowers of the dark
He dug the roots from under park
The Student of the Master

He mixed the potions, brewed the tea
And crushed the powders carefully
Prepared the poultice for the knee
The Student of the Master

The Merlin taught him all he knew
And showed where Mistletoe grew
In oaken groves near birds of blue
The Student of the Master

From the almost finished tower, Gwilym could see the few Beltane fires glowing in the distant fields across the river but could make out nothing going on nearby. Londinium was a city and the folk there thought little about fertile fields. Life in the large town seemed to go on as any other evening. It was a warm night and Gwilym worked shirtless, the sweat cooling him off in the warm breeze. As he hammered in and out the wedges that allowed accurate placement of the river-jade, he kept an eye and ear out for Grainne’s arrival. He wondered how he was going to approach this evening.
The first time, two years ago, he had been overwhelmed by pure, animal lust. The lovemaking had been selfish and savage on his part. The second time she had set the tone and the lovemaking was more mutual. Afterward he had attempted to talk with her about this but Grainne had used her priestess powers to cast some kind of enchantment over him, forcing him to lose control and to sleep.
This time he wanted something different. The conversation they had held earlier today needed to continue. She had given birth to a son of his, a thought that filled him with joy and longing to see the boy, brother to Bleddyn, Jac and Llawen. When would he get to foster the child? And this enchantment she was casting, with his towers and their lovemaking and the Beltane timing as key elements; what was the meaning of it?
They certainly differed on their approaches to religion. She thought of Christianity as an evil, opposed to her Druidic teachings, something which must be fought. He saw it as another, similar religion that was being used cruelly now but had at its core the same basic tenets of the older religion, with some added concepts that made it beautiful. How did this spell help him in his own research? Did it go against the life-course he had set for himself when his father died, or did it move him forward? He must talk further with Grainne.
Merlin would give him no answers, but he might ask the right questions if he could get the old man into another conversation. That would have to take place tomorrow. Tonight, he must stay awake and learn more from Grainne.
Grainne- who was, even now, standing in the center of the rune on top of this capstone, barely visible in the new moon. Once again he hadn’t heard or seen her climb onto the top of this tower, yet here she stood, barefoot, wearing a simple white shift. Again he couldn’t see the color of her hair in the starlight; all were shades of grey.
This time he knelt before her, his head at the level of her breasts, and wrapped his arms around her. He moved his hands down her back and rear and caressed the backs of her legs. On reaching her feet, he slipped his hands under the hem of her shift and then caressed his way back up her calves, the backs of her thighs and buttocks, then up her back to her shoulders. By spreading his arms to their full extent, he was able to pull her shift off her completely and place it on the stone next to them. His hands then caressed their way down her neck, shoulders, breasts, belly and privates, parting her hair to perform his own ministrations, the way he had been taught long ago in Jerusalem.
Grainne threw one leg over his shoulder and enjoyed the treatment, finding pleasure in his attention, feeling her juices flowing down her legs. She had been given this job by the high priestess but there was nothing wrong in her enjoying herself while she worked. Grainne tried hard not to lose herself with this man, especially after the maddening conversation they had held earlier this day. Was he just a fool or was there some truth in his words? If he was just a fool, why was she still thinking about his words?
“Oh Goddess!” she murmured out loud as Gwilym’s tongue found the perfect rhythm and she started to lose control. But she remembered her orders and pulled away from him and lay in the center of the rune. Gwilym was ready for her and entered her smoothly, strongly, deeply, bringing her quickly to her climax.
Gwilym was more controlled now and took his time making love to her, long and slow, fast and furious, then carefully again. Changing positions when she grew uncomfortable, giving her new pleasures with different angles, finally losing control and bucking inside her as she clawed his back in her own pleasure.
He stayed awake this time, his weariness the normal, post-coital kind that he could fight through as Grainne allowed nature to take its course. He noted the mist that surrounded them, thicker this time than previously.
“Well that was lovely,” he remarked as he turned to her and kissed her full on the lips.
She searched his eyes and inquired, “And how many other lovers have you?”
Gwilym was surprised at the question but answered truthfully, “Since my Kaitlyn died, there has been only you. Why ask, though?”
“I want you to stay true to me, Gwilym. It is very important.”
Her insistence made Gwilym pause. Why had he remained faithful to Grainne? It wasn’t because he felt any commitment or loyalty to Grainne. He was being faithful to Kaitlyn except for his once-a-year trysts with Grainne. But why?
It certainly was not for lack of opportunity. In every town he had worked there were many pretty women who looked lustfully on him, from maidens to married women to prostitutes. He had been propositioned often and had always turned them down. Men had offered their daughters in marriage and he had respectfully turned these all down. Why?
He certainly missed the lovemaking. Kaitlyn and he had nurtured a rich sex life and enjoyed each other most nights. Yet he relieved his own tension rather than taking any of the many opportunities open to him. Gwilym wondered if it was because of the boys. He didn’t want his sons to see him with a woman other than their mother. And Grainne offered that. Each time she had been gone by the morning so his boys didn’t know about her. But that couldn’t be the only reason because the whores could offer the same discretion and secrecy. So why Grainne?
The first time had been other-worldly. He had been aroused, certainly, and she had been present and beautiful but there had been something else, some kind of enchantment that had weakened his defenses and caused him to accept her. The second time he had felt the enchantment and had fought against it but it was too strong. And this time he entered the love-making willingly and with the knowledge that they had created another son together. Was he making a life for the two of them?
She was staring into his eyes, waiting for an answer. “If you want me to stay true to you, you have to tell me why. What are you doing with me? Why this consecration of these capstones? What does it all mean? What are you doing with my son?”
“Our son is being raised to be a Druid. He is of the royal blood of Avalon and may one day become the great Druid of the land and replace Merlin. His education is important.”
“Answer my other questions. What are we doing?” Gwilym wouldn’t let her get away with answering only one of his questions.
“We are protecting Britain. These watch-towers protect us from the invading hordes. The rune-stones add another layer of protection. Our consecration of them at Beltane is part of an ancient spell.”
“Then why me? Why not consecrate the stone with another Druid of Avalon? Is it because I was here and the only man? Or did I interrupt you from consecrating it with the man of your choice?”
Grainne paused and pursed her lips together. “You are the choice of Avalon, Gwilym. You built the towers and that makes you special. You must be the one to consecrate the stones. As for me, you may well ask why I am the lucky maiden to be with you every year. I too, am of the royal blood. But I know not why I was chosen. Perhaps the high priestess simply thought I would appeal to you physically.” Grainne blushed and turned her face away.
“You certainly do appeal to me, Grainne. Your looks, your conversation, your healing skills. Do you like to read?”
She turned and smiled. “I memorize. Right now I’m learning lately a story of my namesake, Grainne. She was betrothed to an old man, but ran off with Diarmid, a handsome, young warrior, instead.”
“I would like to hear that story. Could you tell it to me so I can copy it. I collect stories and read them to my boys.”
Grainne smiled. “You do love your boys. I find that appealing. Most men think that their boys are should only become warriors and carry on their line. They leave the raising of them to women and see them only at special events. You are a mother and a father to them. I admire you for that.”
“I worry that I am cheating them out of a real mother. Perhaps I should marry again and give them that gift? Rather than some new watcher-woman at every town we work, from whom they get pulled whenever we leave. It’s hard on Jac and Llawen. They cried for days when we left Airmyn.”
When Gwilym stopped looking at the stars and turned his face to the silent Grainne, he was surprised to see her looking furious. “Stop it!” she shouted. “You cannot to marry! This spell we cast takes three more years. You cannot break it in the middle. Promise me you will remain true to me until then!”
Gwilym looked at her. What had he gotten himself into here? Could he use her insistence on this one thing to get something more from this relationship or was he in real danger? He told her, “I am a man. If you want me to be faithful to you we cannot meet just once a year. I must see you more often. Come to me on days other than Beltane. Let me introduce you to my sons. Become part of my life.”
She reached out her hand and traced the outlines of his face. “I will Gwilym. I will.” Then she curled up against him, her head resting on his chest and fell asleep. Gwilym reached out and found their discarded clothes with his long arm-span and covered them up. He lay awake for another half hour, wondering at this relationship, this spell, how he was to bring Grainne into the lives of his sons. Then he too, drifted off to sleep.

When Gwilym awoke, Grainne was gone again. He was sorry to see this and wondered how long it would be until he saw her again. But meanwhile, he needed to complete some final preparations in advance of Sir Kay’s dedication ceremony. He dressed, went down to the river to perform his ablutions and met his team, who had assembled at the base of the tower.
“Gentlemen!” he addressed them in his usual manner. This used to elicited guffaws, then sniggers but had lately become expected of him. He noticed that it never failed to straighten their shoulders and bring their work to a higher standard. “Today we see the fruits of your labors. The Seneschal of King Arthur, Sir Kay, will come to inspect your work. And he will be impressed!”
The men cheered.
“The bridge and tower are beautiful!  The remains of Belinus are back where they belong, surrounded by the stones that originally entombed them. The bridge is strong; the tower will stand for a thousand years! You did that! I am proud of you!”
Another cheer from the men. They looked around at each other and shook hands, clapped each other on the shoulder, patted backs.
“Today, we clean up the site to look perfect for the ceremony. I don’t need to tell you what to do. You do it. We’ll meet on the bridge at Midday and watch Sir Kay’s reaction when he sees what we accomplished here. See you then!”
The men all scattered and were seen everywhere, picking up trash, placing stones, cleaning the tower, even pulling reeds at its base in the river. They first spruced up their area of focus, then moved to help others who had more work to do, finally ending up on the arch an hour before Midday. Fred and Gwilym appeared with a barrel of ale which they opened and shared amongst the celebrating men.
A cheer rose amongst the men as they saw the procession of Sir Kay wending its way through the streets of the city, leaving the old governor’s villa and heading their way. Gwilym noticed that it was composed of the same three men who had accompanied Sir Kay the last two times.
As before, one looked through the books, another inspected the foundation and construction of the tower and the third paid close attention to the capstone and its placement. The team watched in obvious pride as the men inspected their work. Finally Sir Kay closeted himself with Gwilym and Fred.
“You’ve done good work here again Gwilym. The tower looks great and I’m assured it will stand forever. You finished the job on schedule and the extra money you spent appears to be accounted for. But tell me, man to man, what caused the costs to go over what was planned?”
Gwilym was prepared for this question. “The foundations couldn’t be inspected until we had removed the tower and were much worse than we had planned. We had to sink new piles, then fill the space between the piles with large stones to assure the arch would stand strong. That caused most of the extra costs. Also, a lot of the interior stones were damaged and we couldn’t see these until we removed the outer stones.”
“Couldn’t you have predicted this?” Sir Kay asked.
“We planned for the most likely scenario. Not the most optimistic or pessimistic. So the costs were mostly in line.”
“And yet you come asking me for more money. Next tower I want you to ask for the right amount the first time.”
Gwilym smiled. “So it is to be another tower? Where and when?”
“I have a few in mind but they cannot be started yet. I will contact you at the end of the summer. But this time I want you to figure out exactly how much it will cost before you begin. Where will you spend the summer, Gwilym?”
“I think I will visit Huish again. I’d like to catch up with some old friends.”
“I will send for you there, Gwilym. Now, let’s dedicate this tower.”

“Halfway done, Merlin. Is the spell working?”
“We cannot tell until it is finished.”
“Does Gwilym suspect what we are doing?”
“They both do.”
“And yet they keep working on it?”
“He sees it as protection against what will come, she sees it as protection against the Christians.”
“And Grainne?”
“She is breeding again.”
“Gwilym again?”
“Very interesting. She talks of fostering the first one with Gwilym. What say you to that, Viviane?”
“The sooner, the better. I am becoming too attached to my grandson. Is Mostyn happy with the results of each tower?”
“They are each aligned perfectly and he can feel the power increasing.”
“Where next? It must be Caernarfon.”
Merlin released a quick laugh. “You have been studying your maps, then.”
“He will have his hands full dealing with that mad prince.”
“Gwilym will find a way” Merlin was calm as always.         
“Arthur married that ninny, Gwenevere.”
“She is a nice girl, who was raised at Glastonbury and will treat the king well. She has no ambitions for the kingdom. The alliance strengthens Arthur’s hand in the fight against the Saxons”
“No ambitions for the kingdom? She forces her religion on the king.”         
“He indulges her in this but he is loyal to Avalon.”
“This will not end well. For any of us.”

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